By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- Shane Lowry, who grew up playing against Rory McIlroy, upset the world No. 1 on Thursday in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Lowry made his run on the back nine, winning the 12th hole that McIlroy would later call a "big turning point" with a chip-in birdie and the 13th with an eagle to get a 2-up edge. He bogeyed the 14th hole but got that back with a concession at the 15th after McIlroy found three different bunkers, then parred in for the win.
"Obviously it was always going to be a tough match for me against Rory today, but playing against the world No. 1, I'm feeling quite good now, but it's important not to get too high now because it's only the first round, and I've got another match tomorrow and really looking forward to playing that," Lowry said.
McIlroy, who lost in last year's title match against Hunter Mahan, had never lost in the first round in five previous appearances at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
"I didn't make enough birdies in the end," McIlroy said. "Shane had a nice little stretch around part of the back nine. I hung in there, but I just didn't do enough."
McIlroy grabbed a 2-up lead early as Lowry bogeyed three straight starting at No. 2.But Lowry squared the match with a par at No. 6 and a 5-footer for birdie at the seventh hole before handing McIlroy the advantage again with another bogey at No. 9.
McIlroy bogeyed the 10th hole, though, and the match was square again. Lowry matched McIlroy's birdie at the par-5 11th, chipping in from 19 feet, and then went on the spurt that gave him a cushion he didn't relinquish.
"At the end I just tried to stay in the present," Lowry said. "I tried to play one shot at a time. I knew he was going to be under pressure coming down the stretch, especially when I was a couple up. That's why I was quite annoyed at myself that I handed him 14. I can't really afford to do that against him, what I thought.
"But he obviously felt the pressure. I mean, everyone feels the pressure. It's the world match play at the end of the day, and everyone that's here deserves to be here, and no one is going to be an easy match."
As friendly as the two men are, the banter between the two was minimal as the pressure mounted on the back nine.
"I tried to keep it that way," Lowry said. "I said to Darren, my caddie, walking down 11 or 12, he's not liking this one bit. He's the one under pressure, I've got nothing to lose, so let's have a go from here. I just tried to focus on my game and focus on one shot at a time. At the end of the day it's a huge day for me. It's a bigger win for me than it would have been for him."
Lowry acknowledged playing against someone he knew so well -- the two ate dinner together on Tuesday night -- was a factor. Had he drawn Tiger Woods, as it looked like he would before Brandt Snedeker withdrew, the task could have been more of a challenge.
"Deep down I knew I could beat him," Lowry said. "I'm not here for no reason. I'm not here to make up the numbers. I was quite nervous starting off. I handed him a few holes early doors, but he handed me a few back later on in the round. And this is match play, and I got a few breaks where I needed them, and I'm just fortunate to win."